July 12, 2015 by loscobos12
I never expected to feel empathy for One Direction, but as we left Victoria Falls and headed for the hills, the legions of young screaming fans who surrounded us were evidence of the fact that Zayn Malik and co have absolutely nothing on us.
The town of Siabuwa marked not only the last guaranteed shop for almost 400km, but also (according to the man himself) the admittedly obscure birthplace and residence of the latest incarnation of the Messiah. Bethlehem it was not, so we assumed he was merely a very naughty boy, and stocked up on food. With tales of miracles ringing in our ears and a metric tonne of ginger nuts rattling in our panniers, we headed into the unknown.
Eventually, as we reached more and more remote locations, the reactions of the children went from fascination to terror, as they fled before the (fairly grubby) white monsters on their iron horses.
The culmination of this phenomenon came as we were descending a particularly sandy slope behind a cart pulled by two donkeys. Its driver, hearing us approach, turned round and passed clean out at the sight of us, tumbling over the side of the cart before being run over by the rear wheel. Worried (and slightly offended) that the mere sight of us might have killed a man, we stopped to administer first aid.
His parents soon arrived on the scene and, full of paternal concern, his father stepped straight over his son’s prone body and ran to catch the donkeys. The mother, meanwhile, began to administer aid in the shape of a modest beating. Seeing our concern, she explained with the simple words “drinking beer” that her son had been partaking in a practice known in Yorkshire as “the old five and drive”.
Zimbabwe itself is fairly out of the way for most of us, and after several hundred kilometres of turning onto ever smaller roads and dirt tracks, we reached places that can only really be described by their GPS co-ordinates. The last signs of human habitation ended, and all that was left were the baboons, which barked and fled as we rode.
Sweating like a pair of Greek economists, we made our way tortuously up climbs which required levels of both brute force and concentration normally only found in the hybrid sport of chess-boxing. On the descents, the surface was so bad that our progress was painfully slow, with the notable exception of one occasion which, as a bruised hip and some light road rash are testament, was painfully fast.
Finally, we arrived on the shores of Lake Kariba, where we have spent a relaxing day paddling with hippos, chasing crocodiles, and hoping that the elephant which has been roaming our campsite doesn’t manage to accidentally stub a toe on our tent or bicycles.